Two Thousand and Eight. The year when you paid more for less.  (January 10th 2008)

The New Year is less than a fortnight old and yet we are already facing the prospect of enhanced economic misery. The joys of increased fuel prices have yet to arrive on our doormats but with the German-owned Npower blazing the rip-off trail it would be astonishing if other power companies did not follow suit and under the guise of "major investment in tomorrow's power supplies" raise today's prices through the roof. By the time any new facilities are seriously contemplated you can bet your freezing life that the power-magnates will have taken their bonuses and moved to their islands in the sun. A fair return on investment is one thing but daylight robbery is another.

And talking of daylight robbery, a Happy New Year to all those who commute by South Eastern Trains from East Kent to London!

Back at the end of November I described the proposed new fare tariff as being on a scale that would make Dick Turpin blush. I had not, though, envisaged the apparently swift deterioration in service that is reported to me by those of my constituents who have, since January 2nd, been travelling daily between Margate, Herne Bay or Canterbury and London. While the Network's South Eastern Spin-Doctors have been braying of improvements it would seem that the reality is rather different and delays and overcrowding have been, I am told, the order of the day. Unless this outfit gets its act together then it will, I think, be time for The Chief Executive  and his miserable cohorts to run up the white flag and surrender to someone who can provide a service that works at a price that is fair. I have in the past erroneously suggested that the rail franchise period was too short. If you cannot deliver on quality, punctuality and price then don't make the mistake of seeking my support down that track in the future, friends.

To re-state an argument that I rehearsed last year: my constituents do not want to pay through the nose or even, in the terms of the schoolboy howler, per anum, for the dubious privilege of paying a premium price to travel to a station that they do not want to arrive at in order to waste time travelling back to the destination that they desire by underground. They want to travel, seated in reasonable comfort and at a 21st Century speed and efficiency, to Victoria and to Cannon Street having paid a fare that is commensurate with the distance travelled. And they want to do that today please.

I am vaguely aware that the "management" - I use the word loosely - of Network Rail has been pre-occupied with trying to salvage something from the wreckage of its reputation following the complete fiasco of its holiday engineering jamboree on the West Coast Main Line. Nevertheless, when, please, might we expect the necessary remedial works to be carried out to prevent the water damage to Herne Bay Station that South Eastern Trains tell me is a pre-requisite to their own refurbishment of this Third World station? And when will they find the time to deliver the fast-link trains from London, via Ebbsfleet, Ashford and Canterbury to Thanet with the prospect of enjoying the enhanced service that at least one former Labour Transport Minister promised us would be running by 2007?

At this pace the next fifty weeks could seem like a very costly eternity! 

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